At a time when sporting bodies are in constant dialogue with the government and health experts to determine where and when they can return, cricket is expected to lead the way. As a non-contact sport, the issues pertaining to the passing of coronavirus do not greatly impinge on its on-field play.
The England & Wales Cricket Board have been planning for every eventuality having delayed professional cricket in the country until after 1 July. This includes looking into bio-secure venues where cricket could be played behind doors.
While the players are being kept abreast of the situation by the ECB and the Professional Cricketers’ Association, with international, domestic Twenty20 cricket and The Hundred being prioritised – in that order – they are wary of being “guinea pigs”. A number of players have voiced concerns that if it is still not safe for supporters to be in the stands, how much safer could it be out in the middle?
Moeen’s reservation is that the sport should only continue when the virus is under control and he sights the uncertainty he faced in March, during his time in the Pakistan Super League which came to a premature end at the semi-final stage because of the pandemic.
“Of course we want – everyone wants us – to be playing cricket but if things are not safe it would be very difficult to get players to play,” said Moeen.
“At the moment it’s too early – 500 people dying (per day) is still a big number. That would have to get drastically better for players to consider playing. And I’m sure the ECB are considering this and speaking to other people as well.”
“In my mind there’s probably three to four weeks – maybe a couple of months – that it would take for us to start training. It’s a very difficult position for everybody.”
As a secondary, the prospect of playing in empty stadiums is unappealing. “We played in the PSL the last two or three games with no one in the crowd and it was so bad. It’s different and it’s not quite the same.”
It is this aspect, along with the inability to bring overseas players to the United Kingdom that will likely see The Hundred postponed until next year. The competition was due to open this summer, on July 17. But a meeting specific to the new competition took place on Wednesday (29 April) and it is expected Thursday will bring news of it being saved for 2021 due to the truncated 2020 season, which could pass altogether without a ball being bowled.
Moeen, captain of the Birmingham Phoenix side, one of the eight new teams for the competition, believes a 2021 start will be the right thing. His championing of its values as a marquee competition is in line with the views of ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, who last week said the competition will be more important than ever to the sustainability of English cricket once it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is better for it to be delayed. As players we want the Hundred played with all the best players around the world available to come and play so it makes more sense that way.
“If we can get other international players who were not available this year to make the Hundred even stronger for next year through a mini draft then we an attract a new audience to come and watch cricket. It is probably going to be too much to squeeze in the last couple of months of the season. It would be hard work to squeeze in the Hundred as well.
“It is such a big deal for us in this country and we want it to be played when everything is right and no problems around the world.”
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